Forget online travel websites and those heavy guidebooks. When it comes to travel tips, word of mouth from family and friends is the preferred source of information for mainland Chinese travellers.
In a recent GfK study carried out among Chinese travellers, more than half the respondents (52 per cent) said they rely on their personal contacts such as friends, family and colleagues to get travel related information - the highest of all touch points - online and offline. GfK is the fourth largest market organisation in the world.
But meta search websites and online travel agent websites are fast catching up. Both platforms trailed behind in close second positions at 51 per cent.
"Even with the proliferation and growing consumer dependency on the Internet for all kinds of information, the local norm of seeking information via word of mouth still prevails here," said GfK north Asia director (Travel & Hospitality) Lawrence Liew.
"However, the growing influence of the Internet cannot be avoided, as the other top sources of travel information are still online touch points," he added.
When it comes to making the actual booking, online supersedes offline as the preferred channel, occupying 63 per cent share of the market. Among the online booking channels, online travel agents websites are most popular - used by 46 per cent of all travellers.
However, different trends have surfaced for making bookings for various regional destinations. For instance, traditional travel agencies still retain their competitive edge when it comes to Asian countries, while online channels are more commonly used for Europe and Oceania destinations.
According to GfK findings, Asia is the most travelled region for Chinese travellers in the short term, with 78 per cent of respondents confirming their travel plans to countries in this region. Top three destinations are Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong (14 per cent each), with Japan (11 per cent) and Singapore (8 per cent) trailing behind. One in 10 (10 per cent) have booked holidays in Europe, and 6 per cent, to North America.
Meanwhile, the most commonly purchased travel items online are packaged trips, followed by air tickets and accommodations, as indicated by 86 per cent, 55 per cent and 49 per cent respectively. Over half (52 per cent) of travellers also said they will buy insurance for their holiday. Survey results revealed that the total spending for each traveller per trip averages around 15,000 RMB; which accounts for about half the average monthly household income in the country.
GfK conducted the Consumer Travel Tracker study in China back in February this year to provide the tourism industry with a broader understanding on Chinese travellers' booking behaviour for outbound leisure holiday. The survey was conducted among 1000 respondents who have made travel arrangements in the past three months.